Posted by: ayac | August 26, 2018

Nahuatl placenames in Nicaragua

Notes about Nicaraguan Nahuatl:

  • It’s extinct and largely unattested.
  • We can’t tell if it turned /tl/ into /t/, because Spanish would be expected to adapt /tl/ as /t/ anyway.
  • It sometimes, but not always, turns /e/ into /i/ (and sometimes vice versa). This applies to both short /e/ and long /ē/ (as in Ticuantepe), suggesting that the length contrast was lost.
  • It may not have used the suffix -c/-co, instead using the stem of the noun with no suffix (or possibly a -tl that has been lost). While it’s possible that word-final /k/ was simply lost when the words were adapted into Spanish, it would be strange for it to happen so consistently in Nicaragua and never elsewhere. Also, the ending of Solentiname appears to preserve the original form of the morpheme, without the phonological changes that would occur when the suffix -co is added. (Compare the -tenango ending found in Guatemala, where a vowel is deleted and the /m/ has undergone assimilation.)
  • Speaking of Solentiname, this word suggests that the noun ending -in was retained in compounds. This does not happen in most varieties of Nahuatl, but is occasionally found in the Pipil of El Salvador, e.g. michinkuwat “eel”.
  • There are some morphemes found in Nicaraguan Nahuatl placenames that are not known from other varieties of Nahuatl. In particular, a noun *xinotl or *xinohtli is suggested by both Jinotepe and Jinotega.

Names ending in -apa “river”

Originally -apan, but word-final /n/ is often lost in Nahuatl. This ending is also found in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. It was used both for the names of rivers themselves and for communities near rivers.

  • Acoyapa (community) ← *Ahkoāpa(n) “high river”
  • Achuapa (community) ← *Āchioāpa(n)achiote river”. I’m less certain about this one due to the deletion of the /i/. However, a similar process seems to have happened in the Salvadoran placename Chalchuapa ← *Chālchiwāpa(n).
  • Camopa (community) ← *Kamo(h)āpa(n) “sweet potato river”
  • Chiquimulapa (community in Posoltega municipality) ← *Chikimolāpa(n)ladder-backed woodpecker river”. (The original vowel lengths in chikimol- are unknown.)
  • Citalapa (community) ← *Sītlalāpan “star river”
  • Comalapa (community) ← *Kōmalāpa(n)griddle river”
  • Jalapa (community) ← *Xālāpa(n) “sand river”. This was a popular name and is shared by several places in Mexico and Guatemala.
  • Tecolapa (river) ← *Tekolāpa(n) “charcoal river”. There’s also a place in Mexico with this name.
  • Tecomapa (river) ← *Tekomaāpa(n) “clay pot river”
  • Tepenaguasapa (river) ← *Tepē…āpa(n) “mountain (?) river”. Possibly a *tepenaguastli was some sort of tool; compare Classical Nahuatl tzo(n)huaztli “snare”, chicahuaztli “rattle-stick”, etc.
  • Tipitapa (community) ← *Tepetlaāpa(n)tepetate river” — or possibly just *Tepetlapan “on the tepetate”.

Names ending in -tepe “mountain”

Originally *-tepēk but there’s no sign of the /k/ in Nicaragua. Despite the conventional gloss “mountain” it can also refer to hills, and to communities on or near a mountain or hill. This ending is common in most of Mexico and Central America, and shows up outside Nicaragua as -tepec, -tepeque, and -tepéquez.

  • Ciguatepe (mountain) ← *Siwātepē(k) “woman mountain”. There is also a Siguatepeque in Honduras.
  • Jinotepe (community) ← *…tepē(k) “(?) mountain”
  • Masatepe (community) ← *Masātepē(k) “deer mountain”. There is also a Mazatepec in Mexico, and a Mazatepeque or Masatepeque in El Salvador (not sure which spelling is standard).
  • Ometepe (island) ← *Ōmetepē(k) “two mountains”. This is the name of an island formed from two volcanoes.
  • Teustepe (community) ← *…tepē(k) “(?) mountain”
  • Ticuantepe (community) ← *Tēkwāntepē(k) “jaguar mountain”. This is equivalent to Tehuantepec in Mexico.

Names ending in -galpa/-calpa “town”

Originally -kalpan. I’m assuming the intended meaning is “town”, though the literal meaning is “house” or “houses”. As far as I know, this ending is almost exclusive to Nicaragua. Honduras has two: Tegucigalpa and Juticalpa. Mexico has Naucalpan, but I think that’s an unrelated use of the same morphemes.

  • Comalcalpa (community) ← *Kōmalkalpa(n) “griddle town”
  • Chichigalpa (community) ← *Chichikalpa(n) “dog town”
  • Juigalpa (community) ← *…kalpa(n) “(?) town”
  • Matagalpa (community) ← *Mātlakalpa(n) “net town”
  • Moyogalpa (community) ← *Mōyōkalpa(n) “mosquito town”
  • Totogalpa (community) ← *Tōtōkalpa(n) “bird town”

Names ending in -ega/-eca “people”.

Originally *-ēkat in Proto-Nahuan, but most varieties of Nahuatl have turned the /t/ into /h/. It’s not clear if Nicaraguan Nahuatl went along with this change, or if the final /t/ was lost for some other reason, or even if /t/ was retained in Nicaraguan Nahuatl and was only lost when the words were adapted into Spanish. In Nahuatl, this only refers to people and not places, but often ends up being used for places when the words are adapted into Spanish. (E.g. Hernán Cortés referred to Tlaxcala as “Tascalteca”.)

  • Chinandega (community) ← *Chināntēka “cane fence people”. Chināmitl can also mean a few other things besides “fence”. This word shares the same origin as the name of the Chinantec people of Mexico.
  • Condega (community) ← *Kōntēka “pot people”
  • Jinotega (community) ← *…tēka “(?) people”. C.f. Jinotepe.
  • Posoltega (community) ← *Posoltēkapozole people”
  • Telpaneca (community) ← *…panēka “(?) people”


  • Azacualpa (community) ← *Ātsakwalpa(n) “at the dammed water”. A place in Mexico called Atzaqualpan is mentioned in the Annals of Cuauhtitlan.
  • Pochomil (community) ← *Pōchōmīlsilk-cotton tree field”
  • Solentiname (island group) ← *Sōlintenāmi(tl) “quail city”. Tenamitl means “wall” in Mexico, but “city” in Guatemala, and has been loaned into Mayan languages with the latter meaning. It shows up in a number of Guatemalan placenames as -tenango. However, Solentiname is not ×Solentinango; for some reason, the -co suffix was not used.
  • Tecolostote (river) ← *Tekolostotl “charcoal cave” or *Tekolōostotl “owl cave”. This is the only example so far where the absolutive suffix has survived in some form.

There’s more Nahuatl placenames in Nicaragua than these, but I think I covered most of the important ones.

Posted by: ayac | January 16, 2018


I was tired when I wrote this so it might all be rubbish.

Here’s a fairly well-known Uto-Aztecan cognate set:

*kut ‘firewood’

(Numic) Eastern Shoshone: gu” ‘by means of fire, smoke or wood’, gu-na” ‘fire/firewood’, gu-nya ‘firewood’
(Numic) Northern Paiute: ku- ‘by fire’, ku-na ‘firewood’
(Numic) Southern Paiute: ku-na ‘fire’
(Numic) Chemehuevi: ku-na ‘fire’
Hopi: ko-ho ‘wood/stick/firewood’
Tübatulabal: ku-t ‘fire’
(Serran) Kitanemuk: ku-t ‘fire’
(Cupan) Luiseño: kú-t ‘fire’
(Cupan) Cupeño: ku-t ‘fire’
(Pimic) Tohono O’odham: —
(Pimic) Northern Tepehuan: —
(Pimic) Southeastern Tepehuan: —
(Tarahumaran) River Huarijío: kuú ‘tree/wood/stick’
(Tarahumaran) Central Tarahumara: ku
(Cahita) Yaqui: ku-ta ‘stick/wood’
(Cahita) Mayo: ku-tta
(Corachol) Cora: kɨ-yé ‘tree/wood/stick’
(Corachol) Huichol: kɨ-yé ‘tree/stick/firewood’
Nahuatl: —

This is found in Wick R. Miller’s Uto-Aztecan Cognate Sets (1967) as entries 170a to 170g, and in Voegelin, Voegelin & Hale’s much more conservative Typological and Comparative Grammar of Uto-Aztecan: I (Phonology) (1962) as entry 137. Both recorded it as *ku, without attempting to identify any final consonant. But evidence from many languages shows it must have had some kind of coda consonant, and Alexis Manaster Ramer says it’s *t (in van Marle (ed.), Historical Linguistics 1991 (1993)), though I’m actually still not 100% sure if it’s *t or if it’s . I don’t know what the -na morpheme is in Numic, nor the -ye morpheme in Corachol*, but besides that I think everything makes sense. Of particular note for this blog, the Tübatulabal/Serran/Cupan suffix -t and the Cahita suffix -ta are cognate with Nahuatl -tl. [*I now suspect Corachol kɨyé reflects *kutʔawi ‘firewood’ (below); c.f. Huichol ʔayé ‘tortoise’ from *ʔayawɨt.]

The next two related cognate sets I don’t think have been documented before.

*kutʔawɨ (verb) ‘to gather firewood’ / *kutʔawi (noun) ‘firewood’

(Numic) Eastern Shoshone: — / —
(Numic) Northern Paiute: — / —
(Numic) Southern Paiute: — / —
(Numic) Chemehuevi: — / —
Hopi: — / —
Tübatulabal: — / —
(Serran) Kitanemuk: — / —
(Cupan) Luiseño: kuláaw / kuláawi-sh ‘fetched (wood)’, kuláaw-ut ‘tree/wood/stick’
(Cupan) Cupeño: kela̱w ‘gather long obj, like wood’ / kela̱we-t ‘firewood’
(Pimic) Tohono O’odham: kuʔag / kuʔagĭ
(Pimic) Northern Tepehuan: kuáágɨ-i / kuáági
(Pimic) Southeastern Tepehuan: kuʔaaʔ / kuʔaaʔ
(Tarahumaran) River Huarijío: — / —
(Tarahumaran) Central Tarahumara: kaʔwi, kiʔwi / —
(Cahita) Yaqui: — / —
(Cahita) Mayo: — / —
(Corachol) Cora: — / kaʔai-ri
(Corachol) Huichol: kɨʔái-ya / —
Nahuatl: kʷah-kʷawi / kʷawi-tl ‘tree/wood/stick’

This is as far as I know the first identification of a *-tʔ- cluster in Proto-Uto-Aztecan. When I first noticed this, I assumed it was Southern Uto-Aztecan only since it was absent from Numic and Hopi and I hadn’t checked the other languages yet. In that case, PUA *kut would regularly become PSUA *ku, and then *kuʔawɨ would be derived from that, without the cluster *-tʔ- existing at any stage.

But the presence of cognates in Luiseño and Cupeño show that it must go back to Proto-Uto-Aztezan, and additionally retain evidence of the original *-t- that was lost from Southern Uto-Aztecan. Both these languages turn intervcoalic *-t- into -l-, and apparently *-ʔ in this position was lost prior to that change.

An alternative interpretation is that PUA ‘firewood’ is actually *kuʔ, and ‘to gather firewood’ is *kuʔtawɨ. But I think *-tʔ-*-ʔ- is a lot more likely than *-ʔt-. Either way it’s interesting.

Luiseño kuláaw-ut and Cupeño kela̱we-t are strange, and must involve some additional suffix for them to have -t instead of a lenited form of the suffix. Luiseño kuláawi-sh, on the other hand, seems exactly cognate with Nahuatl kʷawi-tl. I don’t know why Cora and Huichol lost the -w-, nor why Tarahumara is so weird, but I do still think they’re all cognate.

Hopefully this information will one day end up in an etymological dictionary of Nahuatl under the entry for cuahuitl.

Posted by: ayac | February 13, 2017


The so-called “Codex Chimalpahin” contains the following passage (vol. 3, f. 29v, line 15 onwards):

auh ca nimã ye yc huitz. omocencauh omochichiuh yehuatl ynitoca copil. ca cenca huey tlahueliloc. Auh ca cenca huey nahualle amo mach iuhqui yn inan yn itoca Mallinalxoch. ca cenca huey tlahueliloc. yn copil. niman ye huitz. ypan ce calli xihuitl 1285. años. oncan mocuepaco. yn itocayocan Çoquitzinco. ye no ceppa huitz. oncan mocuepaco yn itocayocan atlapalco. ye no ceppa huitz. oncan mocuepaco yn itocayocan ytztapaltemoc. Auh ca yehuatl yn copil. yc mocuep ypan moquixti ytztapaltetl. yc motocayotia. yn axcan ca tiquitohua yn mochi tlacatl. ytztapaltetitla Auh ca in yehuatl yn copil. ca ynecuepca mochiuh yn itztapaltetl. in yehuatl yn copil.

Here’s how Anderson & Schroeder translate it:

And thereupon the one named Copil came; he prepared himself; he adorned himself. He was exceedingly wicked and a very great nahualli. Copil was not the equal of his mother, Malinalxoch by name, but [nonetheless] was exceedingly wicked. Then he came in the year One House, 1285. He turned back to the place called Çoquitzinco. Once again he advanced, turned back to the place named Atlapalco, once again advanced, turned back to the place named Itztapaltemoc. And when Copil returned he appeared as a paving stone (itztapaltetl). Hence the place is named and now every one of us says Itztapaltetitla, and Copil’s return was as a paving stone.

They apparently decided that nahualle was an error for nahualli, even though those kinds of mistakes aren’t typically found in Chimalpahin.

However, the word nahualli has at least two meanings. The most common is “sorcerer” or “wizard”, i.e. a wise person with various magic powers. That’s presumably what Anderson & Schroeder intended. But a less common meaning is “a form that someone can magically transform themselves into”. For example, the Florentine Codex refers to inaoal, inecuepaliz, inenextiliz in tezcatlipuca “the nahualli, the transformation, the manifestation of Tezcatlipoca”. Inecuepaliz “his transformation” is from mocuepa “to turn oneself [into]”, a word with similar polysemy to English turn.

From that sense you get nahuale “one that has a magical form”. For example, Chimalpahin mentions in his Sixth Relation tequannahualeque “those with dangerous animal nahuallis“. But shortly after they’re introduced, hualquiz atl yc aocmo huel mocuepque, yn izqui tlamantli yn innahual “the water came out so they could no longer turn into any of their nahuallis” (whatever that means).

Chimalpahin very frequently writes a double -ll- where a single -l- would be expected, and sometimes vice versa. So nahualle in the passage quoted above is more likely to represent the word nahuale “one that has a magical form”, rather than the word nahualli “sorcerer”.

Once you accept that Copil is being described not as a guy with generic magic powers, but specifically as a shapeshifter, that helps put the rest of the passage into context. Although the word mocuepa (and its various forms) can mean “turn back, return”, here it probably means “transform”. Instead of:

And when Copil returned he appeared as a paving stone (itztapaltetl). Hence the place is named and now every one of us says Itztapaltetitla, and Copil’s return was as a paving stone.

I would translate it something like:

And Copil, when he transformed, appeared to be a paving stone. Hence the name of the place we all now call Near The Paving Stone; it is Copil. The paving stone was Copil’s transformation.

Posted by: ayac | January 15, 2016

Latin-Nahuatl code-switching?

From the Codex Carolino (italics as in the source):

Quedam mulier senex dixit quando hispani maxitico ye nicuiloni. l. nicuilontic quasi diceret iam eram corrupta.

Maxitico ye nicuiloni literally means “(he/she/it/they) arrived here; I am already a non-virgin”. That makes little sense on its own, and quando hispani “when Spaniards” is not even a complete clause. The only way I can make sense of this is if quando hispani maxitico is a single bilingual clause, meaning “when the Spaniards arrived here”. It’s as if the writer got two words into the quotation before he realized he was supposed to be using Nahuatl.

Here’s the whole sentence, with underlines indicating words corresponding to Nahuatl, lack of an underline indicating Latin:

A certain old woman said, “When the Spaniards arrived here, I was already a non-virgin“, or “I had already become a non-virgin“, as if she had said, “I had already been defiled”.

This is also interesting because it shows the word cuiloni (literally “one that gets taken”) being used to describe females, which is otherwise only known to describe male homosexuals (and the god Tezcatlipoca).

Another slightly less clear example of possible code-switching from the same text:

Mexicani dicebant itonal Motecuzoma tlalli quemdam iter [sic; read inter] Tenochtitlan et Cuyoacan.

The Mexica called a certain [piece of] land between Tenochtitlan and Coyoacán “Motecuzoma’s lot“.

Here it seems like quemdam “a certain” is modifying tlalli “land”. Even if iter “road” is actually intended rather than inter “between”, ×quemdam iter is ungrammatical because the genders don’t agree. (And iter Tenochtitlan et Cuyoacan would still not make sense.)

In both examples it seems like the writer intended to switch to Nahuatl just for the quotation and then switch back to Latin, but occasionally got stuck in the wrong language, delaying the switch by a word or two.

Posted by: ayac | December 23, 2015

-tl vs. -tli

Why do some Nahuatl nouns end in -tl and others end in -tli? The obvious answer is that -tl is used after vowels and -tli after consonants (with -l- + -tli assimilating to -lli). But why do some Nahuatl nouns have roots that end in consonants in the first place? The cognates in related languages have vowels, so Nahuatl must have deleted them. What were the conditions?

Looking at it statistically, you can see that noun roots rarely end in certain consonants, while other consonants are frequently found before -tli and rarely before -Vtl. For simplicity I’m only going to look at CVCV and CVC roots here; I’m also ignoring words with a long vowel in the second syllable, and nouns that are derived from verbs.

Given the above restrictions, I count 13 nouns of the shape CVlli, some of which have cognates showing the lost vowel:

calli ‘house’ : Tübatulabal kaniˑl
cālli ‘tongs’
cōlli ‘grandfather’
chīlli ‘chili pepper’
cualli ‘good’
ēlli ‘liver’ : Tohono O’odham ‘eḍa ‘inside; interior’
mīlli ‘field’
mōlli ‘sauce’
nelli ‘true’
olli ‘rubber ball’ : Hopi pölö ‘ball, lump (of any material)’
pilli ‘nobleman’
tlālli ‘land’
xālli ‘sand’

Not counting long vowels, I’ve found only two words of the shape CVlVtl:

quilitl ‘leaf vegetables’
talatl ‘a kind of ant’ (used only in Tetelcingo?)

Based on this, I would assume that vowels are regularly deleted after l, at least in this particular context. Quilitl and talatl might be loanwords. Talatl in particular seems likely to be a loanword, based on its restricted geographic range, its specific meaning, and the presence of the sequence ta-, which is rare in Nahuatl.

Doing the same with k (c/qu in traditional orthography), I find 11 nouns of the shape CVkVtl:

ācatl ‘reed’ : Mayo baaca
mecatl ‘cord’
nacatl ‘meat’ : possibly Southern Paiute naγa-ˢ ‘bighorn sheep’
ocotl ‘pine tree’ : Mayo guocco
tlācatl ‘person’ : Hopi taaqa ‘man’
tocatl ‘spider’
tzīcatl ‘a kind of ant’
xocotl ‘fruit’
yacatl ‘nose’ : Hopi yaqa
zacatl ‘grass, fodder’
zoquitl ‘mud’

But there’s almost as many CVctli nouns:

cactli ‘sandal’
huictli (vowel length unknown) ‘digging stick’ : Hopi wiikya
octli ‘pulque’
tlāctli ‘body’
tzictli ‘chewing gum’
xīctli ‘navel’
xoctli ‘pot’
yēctli ‘good’

However, I believe that tlāctli ‘body’ and xīctli ‘navel’ are back-formations from the equivalent possessed forms notlāc ‘my body’ and noxīc ‘my navel’. Vowels are deleted when word-final after all consonants, independently of the deletion in the absolutive form under discussion, and anatomical terms like these are used in the possessed form more frequently than in the absolutive. Other words affected by the same process include iztlactli ‘saliva; lies’ (which has combining forms iztlac- ‘saliva’ and iztlaca- ‘false’) and cantli ‘cheek’ (which exists alongside camatl ‘mouth’). Different varieties of Nahuatl vary as to which words are affected by this; while Classical Nahuatl has yacatl ‘nose’, Isthmus Nahuatl (Mecayapan and Tatahuicapan) has yakti. Furthermore, tlāctli ‘body’ is actually etymologically the same word as tlācatl ‘person’.

Something similar may apply to yēctli ‘good’. The usual word for ‘good’ is cualli; yēc- is mostly only found in compounds. If we exclude tlāctli ‘body’, xīctli ‘navel’ and yēctli ‘good’, we’re left with only 5 CVctli nouns, less than half the number of CVkVtl words, and I suspect that some or all of these are loanwords.

All of them refer to culture-specific things that are more likely to be loaned than words like ‘nose’ or ‘mud’. Cactli ‘sandal’ and octli ‘pulque’ have been claimed to be loanwords before, for unrelated reasons. Cactli does have related words in other Uto-Aztecan languages, but it’s geographically restricted and the correspondences aren’t regular, so it may be a wanderwort. Nahuatl huictli and Hopi wiikya could be cognate, but I’d rather assume that huictli is a loanword than assume that this word is the one exception to an otherwise regular phonetic development.

Doing the same sort of comparison with other consonants, my conclusion is that the final vowel of bisyllabic noun roots is lost if the preceding consonant is z, tz, x, ch, or l, and kept if it is k, m, p, tl, or y. I’m not sure about cu (=kw), h, hu (=w), n, or t. This is mostly due to limited data, except for w, which has contradictory data:

xihuitl ‘herb’ : possibly Hopi siwi ‘a kind of shrub’
ēhuatl ‘skin’ : Mayo beegua
teuhtli ‘dust’ : possibly Tohono O’odham ce:g ‘mesquite bean flour’
cihtli ‘hare’ : Hopi sowi
tlohtli ‘hawk’ : Mayo taahue

Something more complex may be going on there.

Posted by: ayac | December 1, 2015

Aesop’s Fables 47: A Negro

Perry 393. For other Aesop’s fables see here.

This story works well in Nahuatl, because the word cahcatzactli means both ‘black’ and ‘dirty’.


Cetlacatl quimocohui cecahcatzactli; momatia[x?] çacantlaxic/cahualli ynic opochehuac, caye omalti ynompa / achto otetlayecolti. yehica quipehualti incahaltiaqui/pahpaca momuztlaye, Cenca qui[ma]matelohua, quitequi/xaqualohua yninacayo auh incahcatzactli aychueloqui/cauh ynicatzahuaca ynipochehuaca, çaycilhuice / ycpeuh ycmocohua, omic.

Yniçaçanilli techmachtia, caynquenami ceceyaca yyeliz yni/pantlacat; ayac huel oc centlamantli ypan quicuepiliz.

Cē  cahcatzac-tli.
one black-ABS
A negro.

Cē  tlāca-tl   qui-mo-cōhu-ih-Ø       cē  cahcatzac-tli.
one person-ABS 3sgO-3sgR-buy-APPL-PST one dirty-ABS
A man bought himself a negro.

mo-mati-ya     zā   cān   tlaxiccāhual-li in=īc       ō=pōch-ēhua-c.
3sgR-know-IMPF just where neglected-ABS   SUB=thereby PST=get_smoky-PST
He wondered if he was just covered in smoke from neglect.

Ca  ye      ō=m-āltih-Ø        in  ōmpa  achto ō=tē-tlayecoltih-Ø,
IND already PST=3sgR-bathe-PST SUB there first PST=someone-serve-PST
[But actually] he had already bathed where he first served.

Yehīca qui-pēhua-ltih-Ø    in  c-ahāltia  qui-pahpāca mōmōztlayeh,
since  3sgO-begin-CAUS-PST SUB 3sgO-bathe 3sgO-wash   every_day
Since he began to bathe and wash him every day,

cencah qui-mamateloa qui-tequi-xacualoa in  ī-naca-yō.
very   3sgO-bruise   3sgO-work-rub      SUB 3sgP-flesh-ness
he bruised and excessively scrubbed his body.

Auh in  cahcatzac-tli a-īc     huel ō=qui-cāuh-Ø       in  ī-catzahuaca   in  ī-pōchēhuaca.
and SUB black-ABS     not-when ably PST=3sgO-leave-PST SUB 3sgP-blackness SUB 3sgP-smokiness
But the negro could never lose his blackness, his smokiness.

Ça   īc      ilhuiceh  īc      pēuh-Ø    īc      mo-cocoa;
just thereby much_more thereby begin-PST thereby 3sgR-hurt
He just started to get sicker and sicker,

[until] he died.

In  ī[n] çaçanil-li tēch-mach-tia:
SUB this fable-ABS  1plO-know-CAUS
This fable teaches us:

Ca  in  quēnamih ceceyaca ī-yeliz    in  ī-pan   tlācat-Ø
IND SUB how      each     3sgP-being SUB 3sgP-on be_born-PST
The way each person is, which they are born into,

ay-āc   huel oc=cen-tlaman-tli        ī-pan   qui-cuep-ili-z.
not-who ably still=one-flat_thing-ABS 3sgP-on 3sgO-change-APPL-FUT
nobody can change into something else.
Posted by: ayac | September 30, 2015

“People of the sun”

Many, many seemingly respectable sources say the Aztecs described themselves as “people of the sun” (or sometimes “people of the sun and earth”). But I’ve never seen anything like that in Nahuatl. What source does it come from? And if it’s authentic, what is the original Nahuatl? (It’s not encouraging that people apply the same phrase to the Incas.)

If it’s real, the translation might not be accurate, since the possessed form of “people” (itlacahuan) is normally translated “slaves” rather than “people of”. Unless it was “sun-people” (tonallaca? tonaleque? tonalteca?) originally?

The closest thing I can think of is Titlacahuan “we are his slaves”, “of whom we are slaves” — a name for Tezcatlipoca (and not the sun god).

Posted by: ayac | August 8, 2015

Nahuatl songs

The most important collection of Nahuatl songs is the Cantares mexicanos. John Bierhorst has made his transcription and translation of the Cantares available as a PDF here, and the accompanying dictionary and concordance is here.

Next is the Romances de los señores de la Nueva España. Again John Bierhorst has put his transcription and translation online here, and it also includes images of the manuscript.

The Florentine Codex also includes songs in the appendix to book 2, starting from folio 137. The same songs, with additional explanations in Nahuatl, are also found in the Primeros memoriales, which is online here.

Bernardino de Sahagún published a book of Christian songs in native style, called Psalmodia Christiana, which is online here.

I think that’s all the major sources of native-style Nahuatl songs. A handful of other songs or fragments of songs are found within other texts, like annals. One short example is found on f. 146v of the Codex Chimalpahin.

Posted by: ayac | June 30, 2015

Codex Chimalpahin: Table of Contents

INAH recently acquired a three volumes of manuscripts, formerly belonging to the British and Foreign Bible Society, which are now collectively being called “Codex Chimalpahin” for some reason. High-resolution images of the pages are now online, so I’ve put together a table of contents to help navigate it, similar to what I did for the Florentine Codex.

(This is basically copied from Wayne Ruwet’s description, published in a book also called Codex Chimalpahin, first volume of a series called Codex Chimalpahin, not all of the volumes of which are actually called Codex Chimalpahin, and which include but are not limited to the texts in the third volume of the manuscript now being called Codex Chimalpahin, albeit not in the original order, and also include other texts from sources not called Codex Chimalpahin.)

Volume 2 [Volume 1 in Ruwet’s description]
1. [Historía de la nación chichimeca.]
2. Compendio historico de los Reyes de Tetzcoco.

Volume 1 [Volume 2 in Ruwet’s description]
3. Letter signed “El riego” (loose).
4. Sumaria relación de todas las cosas que han sucedido en la Nueva España …
5. Historia de los señores chichimecos hasta la venida de los españoles.
6. Suma y epíloga de toda la descripción de Tlaxcala.
7. Latin letter (loose).
8. Relación de la jornada que hiso don Francisco de Sandoval Acaxitli …
9. Sumaria relación de la historia general de esta Nueva España …
10. [Relación sucinta en forma de memorial de las historias de Nueva España y sus señorios hasta el ingreso de los españoles.]
11. Document concerning Núño de Guzmán’s conduct in the torture and execution of Caltzontzin, ruler of Michoacan.
12. Cédula signed by Philip II returning lands belonging to Isabel Moteucçoma to her daughter María de Cano Moteucçoma.
13. Document from Tacuba dated 1579 that was used in the appeal of María de Cano Moteucçoma.

Volume 3
14. Historia o Chronica Mexicana y con su Calendario de los meses que tenian y de la manera que tenian encontar los años los Mexicanos en su infidelidad
15. [Crónica mexicáyotl]
16. [Calendars, native and Christian; signs of the zodiac.]
17. [Rulers of Tenochtitlan and their conquests.]
18. [Lineage of the Valderrama de Moteucçomas and the Sotelo de Moteucçomas.]
19. [Various high Tenochca and Tlatelolca lineages.]
20. [Connections between ruling houses of Azcapotzalco, Coatl Ichan, and Tlatelolco.]
21. [Don Gabriel de Ayala’s year count.]
22. Title in Spanish Relaciones en lengua mexicana …
23. [Rulers of Tenochtitlan, Tlacopan, and Texcoco.]
24. Historia o Chronica y con su Calendario Mexicana de los años
25. Huitzimengari, Constantino; Noticios sacadas de una información judicial … con el objecto de probar la extensión de sus dominios.
26. Document in the Tarascan language dated 1543.
27. Native place names distributed on the page like a map.
28. [Juan de San Antonio’s letter to don Pablo de Santa María Ahuachpaintzin and others asking for land; dated 13 December 1564.]
29. [Texcoca accounts of conquest episodes.]
30. [Descent of don Pedrillo.]
31. Memoria yninhualaliz Mexica azteca ynicohuallaquenican Mexico Tenuchtitlan
32. [Conquest of Tlatelolco.]
33. [Parentage and progeny of don Diego de San Francisco Tehuetzquititzin.]
34. [Escape of Moteucçoma Ilhuicamina and his companions from imprisonment and death in Chalco.]
35. [Two brief statements by don Hernando de Alvarado Teçoçomoctzin.]
36. [Early rulers of Tlatelolco.]
37. [Names of founders of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco.]
38. [Various Tenochca-Culhuaque lineages.]
39. [Ancient Mexican month count and ceremonial calendar.]
40. La decendencia y generacion de los Reyes y Señores y naturales del pueblo de culhuacan y tambien de aqui de los Reyes y Señores naturales enesta gran ciudad de mexico tenochtitlan
41. Spanish theological (?) account.

Posted by: ayac | June 18, 2015

Aesop’s Fables 41: The Turtle and the Eagle.

Perry 230. For other Aesop’s fables see here.

¶ Ayotl yhuan quauhtli.

Ynayotl cenca quitlatlauhtiaya ynquauhtli ynicquimachtiz / inquenin huelpatlaniz. auh in quauhtli çanquitlacahualtia/ya ynic hamo quelehuiz patlanaliztli: yehica caamoypã / tlacat. auh ynayotl çacenca quitlatlauhtiaya ynicqui/machtiz. auh in quauh tli niman quiz timotzolo ynayotl / huelahco oquihuicac. auh yyehco quinemitia quauhtli o/quihualmacauh ynayotl centetl texcalli ypan otehtex/titihuetzico.

Yniçaçanilli techmachtia: Camiequintin yntlayelehuiliz/tica mixpopoyotilia, hamo quihuel caqui ynintenono/tzaliz ynoccenca mohcaliani. auh yca yniyolpolihui/liz motlaça ypan in miquiztli.

Āyō-tl     ī-huān    cuāuh-tli.
turtle-ABS 3sgP-with eagle-ABS.
The turtle and the eagle.

In  āyō-tl     cencah qui-tlātlauhtia-ya in  cuāuh-tli
SUB turtle-ABS very   3sgO-implore-IMPF  SUB eagle-ABS
A turtle was begging an eagle

in  īc      qui-mach-tī-z      in  quēn in  huel patlāni-z.
SUB thereby 3sgO-know-CAUS-FUT SUB how  SUB well fly-FUT
to teach him how to fly.

Auh in  cuāuh-tli çan  qui-tla-cāhua-ltia-ya
and SUB eagle-ABS only 3sgO-thing-abandon-CAUS-IMPF
But the eagle only tried to dissuade him

in  īc      ah=mō   qu-ēlēhuī-z   patlānaliz-tli;
SUB thereby not=not 3sgO-want-FUT flight-ABS
from wanting to fly,

yeh ī-ca    ca  ah=mō   ī-pan   tlācat-Ø.
it  3sgP-by IND not=not 3sgP-on be_born-PST
because he wasn't born that way.

Auh in  āyō-tl     ça   cencah qui-tlātlauhtia-ya in  īc      qui-mach-tī-z.
and SUB turtle-ABS only very   3sgO-implore-IMPF  SUB thereby 3sgO-know-CAUS-FUT
But the turtle persisted begging him to teach him.

Auh in  cuāuh-tli niman qu-izti-motzoloh-Ø  in  āyō-tl;
and SUB eagle-ABS then  3sgO-nail-grasp-PST SUB turtle-ABS
So the eagle grasped the turtle in his talons;

huel ahco ō=qui-huīca-c.
well up   PST=3sgO-carry-PST
he carried him high up.

Auh yyehco qui-nemī-tia   cuāuh-tli
and ???    3sgO-live-CAUS eagle-ABS
And the eagle ???

ō=qui-huāl-mācāuh-Ø      in āyō-tl;
PST=3sgO-hither-drop-PST SUB turtle-ABS
he dropped the turtle;

cen-te-tl     texcal-li ī-pan   ō=tehtexti-ti-huetzi-co
one-stone-ABS crag-ABS  3sgP-on PST=become_dust-LIG-fall-come
he fell onto a crag and smashed to pieces.

In  ī    zāzanil-li tēch-mach-tia:
SUB this fable-ABS  1plO-know-CAUS
This fable teaches us:

Ca  miequī-n-tin in  tlaēlēhuiliz-ti-ca m-īxpopoyōti-lia-h;
IND many-PL-PL   SUB desire-LIG-by      3plR-go_blind-CAUS-PL
Many are blinded by desire;

Ah=mō   qui-huelcaqui-h     in  īn-tēnōtzaliz in  oc    cencah mohcaliani.
not=not 3sgO-listen_well-PL SUB 3plP-advice   SUB still very   ???
they don't take advice which especially ???.

Auh ī-ca    in  ī-yōlpolihuiliz mo-tlāza-h    ī-pan   in  miquiz-tli.
and 3sgP-by SUB 3plP-confusion  3plR-throw-PL 3sgP-on SUB death-ABS
And because of their confusion they throw themselves to their deaths.

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